As you get older, your body doesn’t always work the exact same way it used to. One area where this is especially true? Your feet! Over the years, your feet bear the literal weight of your existence and, with time, that weight can take its toll. Even if you’ve taken good care of your feet over the years, you may still notice some of these problems start cropping up, especially after celebrating the big 6-0!
Four Common Age-Related Foot Problems
1. Heel Pain
Many older adults start to develop heel pain because of plantar fasciitis—inflammation in the plantar fascia, which is a thick, fibrous band that connects the heel to the toes. This condition leaves you with pain at the bottom of your foot, on your heel and around your arch. The inflammation can develop for many different reasons, but the most common causes are un-supportive foot wear and overuse. Tight muscles in your legs and calves can also tug on your plantar fascia, causing it to stretch and even develop tiny tears that will also leave you with heel pain.
When you’re dealing with heel pain as an older adult, custom orthotics can help take the pressure off your plantar fascia, relieving some of your discomfort. We will also likely recommend stretches, rest and icing to help relieve the current pain and inflammation.
2. Corns and calluses
As you age, the skin on your feet thins out and loses its fat padding. And while that might be a good thing if it happened in spots like your waist, when the thinning develops on your feet, it leaves them more vulnerable to corns and calluses.
Although we often talk about these two problems together, they are actually separate problems. Both corns and calluses develop from pressure and rubbing, but corns tend to pop up between your toes and on the soles of your feet, while calluses are more likely to develop on the balls of your feet. They also look different: corns form as circles of thick skin, while calluses are hard, rough patches of skin. Corns are typically the same color as your skin; calluses may show up with a yellow-tint.
To help prevent corns and calluses, wearing properly-fitted footwear is crucial. And, remember, your shoe size may change as you age, so the sneakers that once fit you perfectly could now be rubbing your feet uncomfortably. After 60, it’s worth getting your feet professionally measured before purchasing new pairs of shoes.
Already got corns or calluses? It may be tempting to purchase also over-the-counter treatments, since they can help soften the skin in these affected areas. But, these OTC remedies will only help with pain temporarily. If you truly want to be rid of these hardened skin patches, go in to see your podiatrist, who can remove corns or calluses safely, hygienically and with little to no discomfort.
According to research in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, bunions are far more common in older individuals than in their younger counter-parts. While we don’t know exactly why this is the case, we do not a lot about bunions themselves.
Bunion form when the joint of your big toe is pushed out of its regular position; this movement causes a bulging, bony bump to develop beneath the affected toe. When this shift occurs at the base of your baby toe, the same effect can be seen, it’s just given a different name: bunionette.
Bunions can cause swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe; the skin underneath your toe may become thicker, and your other toes—especially the ones that neighbor the bunion or bunionette—are more likely to develop calluses. Many people with bunions also find it difficult to wear shoes without discomfort.
When bunions have progressed to the point where just walking causes you pain, our Elmhurst podiatrists may recommend surgery. But if you seek early treatment for bunions, padding, orthotics and a change in footwear can help keep your bunions from progressing to that stage.
4. Achilles tendinitis
One more problem that increases with aging? Achilles tendinitis—a condition characterized by inflammation in your Achilles tendon (the one that connects your heel to your calf.) This is often an age-related problem because your tendon weaken and lose their elasticity as you get older.
When you’ve got Achilles tendinitis, you may experience pain or swelling in the back of your heel. Your calf muscles may tighten up and even walking can become uncomfortable.
Fortunately, we can easily treat the inflammation in your Achilles tendon. After a complete evaluation of your condition, we can recommend stretches, splints and orthotics that may help support your tendon and prevent further inflammation. And, if pain persists even with these initial treatment options, you may benefit from treatments with our MLS laser, which has been shown to help manage inflammation and pain.